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Palestinians, Israelis remember Edward Said

September 27, 2003


RAMALLAH, Sept 26: The Palestinian leadership paid tribute on Friday to Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, saying humanity had lost “its eminent genius”, as Israeli media reported his death at age 67 with mixed feelings.

“With his departure, humanity has lost its eminent genius who had actively contributed to every cultural, intellectual and creative fields,” said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee in a joint statement.

“He distinguished himself as an advocate of human rights and believed in free thought and its enlightenment,” said the statement published by the Palestinian official press agency Wafa.

His “important and active role” within the Palestinian national movement as a member of the Palestinian national council — the Palestinians’ parliament in exile — between 1977 and 1991 was noted in the statement.

It failed to mention that Said quit the parliament in 1991 because of Arafat’s rapprochement with Israel.

An editorial in the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper said “he was first and foremost the most eloquent advocate in the West of the Palestinian people’s just cause. With his death, humanity has lost a personality and an avant-garde thinker.”

Danny Rubinstein in the Israeli center-left paper Haaretz wrote that “his influence far exceeded the Palestinian and Arab question and marked new directions in the study of the Orient, Islam and perhaps the developing world at large.”

He said Said had “many Israeli acquaintances and had many Jewish friends in the United States. However, among the American Jewish establishment, he was considered public enemy number one.”

Tom Segev in the same paper recalled Said’s fervent opposition to “terrorist attacks in Israeli cities.”

“But he was not against Palestinian attacks against Israeli soldiers,” he wrote.

“The Israeli media remembers him especially for having thrown a stone on the Israeli-Lebanese border a few years ago. And in his brilliant and somehow escapist way, he said it was a joke.

“Well aware of the power of symbols, he signed a petition against Holocaust revisionism,” wrote Segev.

Haaretz stressed his well-advertized opposition to Arafat.

And Israeli left-wing rights activist Uri Avnery said his death is “a great loss. There is no second Edward Said. He always impressed me by the seriousness and richness of his thought.”

Supporter of the one state solution whereby Israelis and Palestinians would live together rather than in two separate countries, Said first denounced the 1993 Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the PLO as “an instrument of Arab surrender” and publicly asked for Arafat’s resignation.

Born in 1935 in Al Quds, then under British rule, Said was an internationally-renowned intellectual who authored several books including the widely acclaimed “Orientalism” in 1978.—AFP